Good Morning. My name is Craig Williams, national spokesperson for the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a coalition of local grassroots, regional and national environmental, disarmament and veterans organizations whose focus is to ensure the safe and proper destruction of the United States stockpile of chemical weapons.
The Working Group's objective is to support chemical weapons destruction while changing the way the military is carrying out this mission through Congressional action.
We are at a crossroads in this disposal issue.
The path the military has chosen to date--incineration--has proven itself to be a failure by any measurement you could apply. Currently, the incineration program is 14 years behind schedule, more than 800% or $13.9 billion over budget, plagued with technical problems, lawsuits, growing citizen opposition and gross mismanagement. The Pacific incinerator is a failure, as Maile will explain. A parade of whistleblowers has marched out of the Utah incinerator including the plant's General Manager, Chief Safety Officer Steve Jones, who will speak to you shortly, the Chief of Hazardous Waste Management and others. More will follow. If this incineration program were a business, you wouldn't invest in it. If it were a stock, you wouldn't buy it. If it were a horse, you wouldn't bet on it. But as taxpayers we have no choice but to buy into it unless Congress acts.
In addition to the other shortcomings of the incineration program, it is an investment with no future--a virtual dead-end. Instead of spending taxpayer funds on a toxic-emitting technology nobody wants, Congress needs to invest in cleaner, safer technologies that will not only address this particular mission, but will put the United States out in front in the world market through innovative and acceptable solutions to hazardous waste, military and other clean-up programs--technologies that are marketable and exportable.
The current alternative technologies program, which will be explained in more detail by Evelyn and David, was given 40 million dollars over two years to demonstrate the capability, effectiveness and acceptability of other approaches. This program is on schedule and within budget. It has attracted major corporations, seven of whom have passed the initial screening phase and are now moving forward. A similar effort three years ago, which looked only at alternatives for Maryland and Indiana, resulted in non- incineration approaches now being implemented with citizen approval. Unlike incineration, these technologies will not emit poisons into these communities.
The assurances the Army has given that the incineration program is safe and protective, and will finally turn the corner and work as promised, can not be believed. Was it true when they said atomic testing was safe? Was it true when they said Agent orange was safe? Was it true when they said our troops in the Gulf were not harmed by exposure to chemical warfare agents? Unfortunately, we now know the answer to these questions is unequivocally, no.
We would be foolish to put ourselves in harm's way once more. Congress can save this nation from another cruel legacy of deceit and danger.
We call on Congress to do the following:
Implementing these steps will ensure the safe and expeditious disposal of these weapons as we all desire and fulfill our commitment as a nation to do so under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
No citizen should be forced to choose between disarmament and the safety of their community. Congress must have the courage to order the military to move beyond its shameful legacy of deceit and injury. This would help rebuild trust between the American people and their government. This program, based on flawed decisions made over 16 years ago is poisoning our children. It is perpetuated in the interest of protecting military careers and corporate profits, while safer options exist.
We are at a crossroads where the opportunity to do what's right in the context of the values Congress and the American people share--putting our children first--can be accomplished. But it is the United States Congress that must act and show us that it ais equal to the aspirations of its citizens.
We have the solutions before us and we call on our elected officials standing at the crossroads with us to choose the right path.
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